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What do you have here that is different? I hope the BYU experience will cause you to take on those qualities that will make of you a true disciple of Jesus.
This speech was given on November 4, 1997.
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"Thank you, President Bateman, for that introduction. Thank you, Brother Wilberg, for that stirring music. It was wonderful. I think I’d like to be the drummer. Thank you, Ri Ho Nam. It’s nice to hear from you again. I first met Ri Ho Nam in 1960 when he was a little fellow in Korea. Now he’s a little fellow in Provo. We’ve had many interesting times together over there in the Land of the Morning Calm. I have a great regard for this, my friend Ri Ho Nam.
My beloved brethren and sisters, what a wonderful thing it is to look into your faces, of the thousands and thousands of you who are here this morning. Thank you for coming. You do us great honor by your presence. We’re grateful for your lives, for your faith, for your love of the Lord, and for your desire to walk his way and be the kind of men and women that the Lord expects you to be. Thank you for the goodness of your lives.
What a wonderful time it is to be alive. What a wonderful time to be a student at this great university. There is peace in the world. We are closing the bloodiest century in the history of all mankind. There are a few skirmishes here and there, but no great cataclysmic wars. How thankful you ought to be for that fact. You are free to go forward with your lives. You live at a time when perhaps there are greater career opportunities than at any other time in the history of the world. I commend you most warmly on your presence.
In a recent meeting of the board of trustees, members of the administration of the university spoke of ways to give a larger number of young people a taste of “the BYU experience.”
I thought of that much after the meeting. The BYU experience? What is it? What is unique about attending this university in contrast with another?
I recently spoke on the campus of another university in this state. The paper reported there were 20,000 in attendance. I think that figure was exaggerated. But the fact is, there was a huge crowd. Most of them were institute students. They looked just the way you look. They were clean, well-groomed, and neatly dressed. They were eager and attentive. As high a percentage of them will be married in the temple as there will be of you. They were much better behaved than some few of you I saw on television the other night.
Returning from my experience on this other Utah campus, I asked myself, “What does BYU have to offer that this school does not?” Perhaps we need to go beyond our neighbor universities with their strong institutes. We need to reach out across the nation and beyond and take note of what is happening on the campuses of America. We have some truly great institutions of learning in this nation. But in so many cases are found circumstances that are seriously disquieting. Many of you, I am sure, read of the student who recently died of over-drinking—binge drinking, as they called it. There have been other cases of this. We have coeducational dormitories on some campuses. There are many faculty members who, perhaps even boastfully, speak of a lack of belief in God as if that were the mark of a great scholar. There are other problems—so very many of them.
I have reflected much of late on the unique features of this Church university. I am not surprised that students from far and wide are trying to get in here. It is a tragedy that so many must be turned away. Sometimes I wish we could support a dozen institutions such as this. But we cannot, and the problem becomes more serious every year as we have in the Church an increasing number of young people.
What do you have here that for the most part is not found elsewhere? Is there any substance to this so-called BYU experience?
I think so. For instance, you have student wards and stakes. I do not know how many of you really appreciate the meaning of this. There is no competition to get into social fraternities, and yet there is every opportunity for sociality. Here every student stands on an equal footing in belonging to a student ward..."